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Tuesday
Jan112011

If A Surgeon Can Write A Book or Two, So Can You

If I had only one word, I would use “pinball” to describe my transition from academic surgery as an Associate Professor at Dartmouth to what I do now, combining locum tenens general surgery with being a thought leader in physician engagement and optimizing physician-hospital collaboration.

Yet, writing appears to be the common thread in my iterative life journey.  I learned that the words “author” and “authority” have a common root, auctor, (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/authority)  meaning writer, progenitor, accepted source of information, power, and mastery.

I had a fortunate break that helped me write my first book, Better Communication for Better Care.  In 2003, the head of the California Hospital Association who heard me present results of a consulting project, remarked, “This is the best work in any California community hospital, bar none,” and told the President of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) to ask me to teach a seminar there.  As a result of the seminar, the acquisition editor of Health Administration Press, the publishing arm of the ACHE, told me that she had a series of 80-page Executive Essentials books and asked me if my seminar material would fit.

When I said yes, she said, “Just because you have published over 40 articles, don’t think of this project as an extended article.  Writing a book is different.”  What I learned from the process is that:

  • Writing a book with a publisher requires others’ assistance: people who cannot abide by others advising them re: title, cover design, length, and word-smithing are better off self-publishing
  • The focus is on the needs of the target market: unlike a review article, which is a scholarly product, a book published by Health Administration Press must reflect the unmet needs of senior healthcare leaders, guiding them on what strategies and tactics work with physicians, not telling them how ignorant they are because they did not attend medical school
  • Once the book is published, the author’s job begins: at Health Administration Press, a marketing department of two oversees the launch of about 100 books in the catalog; it becomes the author’s responsibility to take an active role in marketing the book if s/he wants to publish another book in the future

So, how do you market your book?

My mentor Sam Horn, taught me, “Ink it when you think it.”  I keep a pad of paper and a pen in my pocket, and on my bedroom nightstand for those moments when a thought comes to me.  Others use the record button of their smart phones to capture ideas.  For me, writing has been a wonderful journey that has expanded my knowledge base and circle of friends and colleagues and that has led to speaking and consulting invitations in 40 states, England, Sweden, Italy, and China.

I hope that your writing journey is equally rewarding and that you will keep me posted on your progress by writing me at ken.cohn@healthcarecollaboration.com

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